In what comes as a major setback for Beijing, the World Bank has reportedly ended funding to vocational schools in the far-western Chinese province of Xinjiang, following mistreatment of the Uyghurs by China in the said province. The World Bank had issued a massive loan of 50 million US Dollars for the “Xinjiang Technical and Vocational Education and Training Project.” The project was overseen by the dragon’s Department of Education in the Xinjiang region.
The Washington-based development lender had launched a review of the project after it was reported by Foreign Policy in the month of August that a school supported by the 50 million US Dollars loan for the vocational education project, had spent at least 30,000 US Dollars to purchase high-end security equipment, including “barbed wire, gas launchers, and body armour.”
On August 23, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, a U.S. government agency that tracks human rights issues in China had issued a letter to the World Bank President David Malpass. The letter had expressed concerns about the massive loan extended by the international finance institution to the Department of Education in respect of the vocational education programme in the far-western Chinese province. Earlier in July, an employee of the development lender had written an email to an executive director on the bank’s board. He had highlighted concerns about the loan programme.
As per Foreign Policy school in question covered by the World Bank loan programme had spent the amount of 30,000 US Dollars to purchase 30 tear gas launchers, 100 anti-riot batons, 400 sets of camouflage clothing, 100 sets of “stab-resistant clothing,” 60 pairs of “stab-resistant gloves,” 45 helmets, 12 metal detectors, 10 police batons, and barbed wire. It was not clear whether the purchases were made directly out of the World Bank loan amount, or from some other source. However, it immediately gave rise to the suspicion that the “vocational schools” in Xinjiang being supported by the 50 million US Dollars loan program might actually be used for purposes other than dissemination of education.
The World Bank has now said that its internal review of the matter “did not substantiate the allegations” about the funds being used for repressive purposes. However, the international finance institution went ahead with the decision to cut off funding anyway. The Washington-based institution said, “In light of the risks associated with the partner schools, which are widely dispersed and difficult to monitor, the scope and footprint of the project is being reduced.” In a statement, the World Bank added, “Specifically, the project component that involves the partner schools in Xinjiang is being closed.”
It is important to mention here that for the past one year, there have been several shocking reports about how China is mistreating the Uyghur Muslims in its far-western province of Xinjiang. Beijing is carrying out a massive political re-education campaign that requires Muslim detainees to swear allegiance to the Communist Party and foreswearing a Muslim faith that they are told to repeat is “stupid.” This massive campaign treats Islam as a mental disease. China terms the internment/ detention camps as ‘re-rducation centres’ or ‘vocational education centers’. However, last year a senior Chinese official had spilled the beans while talking to a UN panel about the internment camps when he stated that there are, “no such things as reeducation centers.” Even though, the government documents refer to them as re-education centres, in reality, they are just vocational schools for criminals. Therefore, China has not only started looking at Islam as a mental disorder but it is also being criminalised. As per reports, China has detained between one to two million Uyghur Muslims in these secret internment in the Xinjiang province.
This year too, there have been shocking reports about how China is virtually tormenting the Uyghur Muslims. Recently, it came to light that the dragon has followed up its atrocities against the Uyghurs by forcing the Uyghur Muslim women to share beds with male Chinese officials after their husbands are detained in internment camps. In the month of September, it had UN Human Rights Council was also told that the Chinese government was harvesting and selling organs from persecuted ethnic and religious minorities including the Uyghur Muslims, who are being persecuted at an accelerated pace. Lawyer Hamid Sabi, speaking at the UNHRC headquarters in Geneva, had presented the findings of the China tribunal, an independent tribunal on accusations of forced organ harvesting.
The episode of a school supported by the World Bank’s loan program spending a sizeable sum on purchasing high-end security equipment brought to light how the loan program could have been potentially misused for funding the interment camps that are operating in the Chinese province of Xinjiang. The World Bank has therefore avoided a major embarrassment by ending the loan program.